Admittedly, this has been one of my better assignments. My task: to be a quiet and innocent observer as five local men of style drink manhattans in the cigar room of the Summit Club and weigh in on all things distinctively and stylishly male.
I sit, pen and notepad in one hand, martini in the other, as Stephen Wolff (a US Air Force intelligence officer), Drew Harding (corporate attorney), Shane Fernandez (vice president of an architecture firm), Josh Roby (banker), Dustin Thames (realtor) and David Karimian (financial advisor) make their way in one by one and take a seat. I notice that each gentleman is wearing a variation of blue. Note to self: Blue is in. And in this instance in particular, decidedly manly.
The purpose of this impromptu panel (other than a great excuse to meet for happy hour) was to pick the brains of some of Tulsa's most dapper gentlemen on their secrets for cultivating their distinctive individual styles. And while each man has his own look, as a group these five have imparted some very consistent (not to mention useful) advice.
Style Tip 1: First and foremost, fit matters. Huge. In fact, it is unanimously determined that ill-fitting clothing is perhaps the worst style mistake that a fellow can make. "Style is all about fit. You can purchase a $2,000 Armani suit, but if you get a 42 when you should be in a 38, and have 2 inches of break in the pants, you will look like every other poorly dressed man out there," said Harding. Everyone is in agreement that no stylish man can survive without a skilled tailor. Vo is a favorite, but as Roby points out, "Vo has become somewhat of a rockstar tailor, so you might have more luck getting an appointment with Vo's relative Thu."
Style Tip 2: Complete and utter brand loyalty is not only unnecessary, it's actually kind of boring.
"I'm not too loyal to one brand. My opinion is: if it looks good, buy it. It doesn't matter what brand it is. The only time I pay attention to brand names is when I'm buying shoes and belts," said Karimian. And as Roby pointed out, "The only brand that I'm loyal to is Levi's."
Style Tip 3: Invest in quality where it really counts.
"Shoes and belts will last years and years if you buy quality ones," Karimian said. "You will certainly get your money's worth. My dad always said 'I'm not rich enough to buy cheap stuff.'" He is particularly fond of Allen Edmonds shoes.
Wolff echoes this sentiment of quality over quantity. "Guys tend to be reluctant to spend a lot on shoes, so why not by a great quality pair that will last you forever and that you don't have to replace?"
Style Tip 4: Don't overlook the details. Accessories matter. "My favorite fashion purchase would have to be my watches," Karimian said. "I have an affinity for watches and I appreciate the craftsmanship. Having a watch lets people know that you know what time it is. Whether it's an interview or a date, having a watch to go with your style is the perfect complement to your overall look."
Fernandez likes to use accessories to differentiate his look. "I use a BlackHawk tactical briefcase, my belts are typically very heavy duty and I prefer stout boots over leather shoes anytime. Oh, and don't forget the belt buckles, whether it be a tank, chainsaw, revolver cylinder, piston, etc. I like to buy my belt buckles in rural gas stations," Fernandez said, without cracking a smile.
Style Tip 5: Dress for success.
As Karimian points out, "I want to do business with a guy who takes pride in who he is and what he does. His clothing communicates that." But you needn't break the bank to look the part. If something is of great quality and in good condition, second hand can be your best friend. There are men's consignment stores such as Echo Men that sell slightly used clothing for a fraction of the cost.
Roby recommends perusing the Internet. "When I first started my career (as a banker), I bought clothing on Ebay. I've bought suits on Ebay that you guys have all complimented me on," he said.
Style Tip 6: Don't be afraid to look elsewhere for inspiration.
Harding recommends turning to sources such as GQ, Esquire, The Sartorialist and Mr. Porter if you're in need of some visual guidance or fresh ideas.
Style Tip 7: There are some clothing items you should avoid at all costs.
"Work-out clothes outside of working out and pajama pants outside the house." -- Thames
"Square-toed shoes." -- Harding
"Clothes that don't fit." -- Karimian
"Affliction, Ed Hardy, embroidered jeans, salmon colored chinos, or a big flashy watch." -- Roby
"Capri pants" -- Fernandez
"Really just anything that doesn't fit well." -- Wolff
Style Tip 8: If you've only got $500 to spend ...
"A pair of selvedge, straight fit Levi's, brown loafers, white v-necks, black Chuck Taylor Converse, black Izod polo, Bengal striped button-down shirt." -- Harding
"Well cut jeans, quality shoes, interesting socks, an interesting and fashionable belt, a v-neck undershirt, a tailored shirt, a stylish starter watch." -- Karimian
"Nice shoes, dark Levi's, nice classic watch, solid oxford button-down, solid t-shirt, well-fitting sport coat. Spend any leftovers on a good belt and tailoring." -- Roby
"Suit and shoes." -- Fernandez
"A jacket." -- Thames
"Cowboy boots and a solid colored v-neck t-shirt." -- Wolff
As each of these turned-out gentlemen illustrate, style needn't be all that complicated. Just give it a bit of forethought and pay a visit to your tailor now and then. Don't be afraid to be seen and leave your mark. Men will respect you for it and women will notice you for it. True style is about communicating respect, looking your best, feeling confident and accomplishing your goals. So more power to you in that tailored suit.
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